The Ancient Meaning of Wisdom

MBV   January 25, 2017

The Meaning of Wisdom

The term 'wisdom' is often referred to as something that is acquired throughout our trials and errors in life and that can only be gained at a certain stage in the development as a human being.

But according to some of the most ancient philosophies ever recorded, the true meaning of wisdom represents more than something that we gain from experience and accumulate as we grow old.  

Here are some fascinating ways to interpret the meaning of wisdom as portrayed through various traditions, origins, philosophies, and civilizations.


According to early Hindu texts, the meaning of wisdom is described as an antidote to the self-chosen poison of ignorance. The sanskrit word Prajna is composed of two terms; “pra” refers to “before” and “jna” means “knowledge”.

The meaning of Prajna is translated as intuitive wisdom, perfect knowledge, intelligence, or deep understanding. Prajna is considered a kind of inner knowing that is beyond the intellect and comprehension of the human mind.

Attaining this level of wisdom is referred to as enlightenment — an alignment of mind and spirit where a person achieves ultimate liberation. Practicing prajna gives you the freedom to live stress free and experience the simplicity of life as is.


In the ancient texts entitled ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ a disciple asks the Buddha, “How many bases for training are there for those seeking enlightenment?” The Buddha replied, “There are six: generosity, morality, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom.

Meaning of Wisdom - Buddha

Paramitas in Sanskrit means “to cross over to the other shore.” This meaning of wisdom represents one’s journey from the sea of suffering to the shore of happiness; a transition from ignorance to illumination.

Traditionally, the paramitas are practiced by bodhisattva ("Buddhas-to-be"), with the intention of helping others by sharing wisdom and prosperous energy.


Tao philosophy is an ancient tradition of Chinese origin, and maintains a lot of significance in meditation practices throughout the world. Early Taoists started studying the flow of life currents in nature and began cultivating a comprehension of how this transfer of energy is reflected in human beings.

Human beings are part of the natural world around them, and hence, the accurate understanding of the laws of nature gives us clarity and enlightenment about ourselves.

The practice of Taoism teaches us to respect the natural way of life. This is the path of least resistance and pure balance with each moment; a better appreciation of the complex inter-relatedness of everything in life.

Practising Taoism is to become more attuned to the universal flow of life force, in all the spheres of their life. This meaning of wosdom represents the ability to experience heightened states of balance and synchronized energy that can be channeled into all aspects of one’s life.


As pivotal figures in the development of Greek philosophy, Socrates and Plato define philosophy as literally meaning “the love of wisdom.”

Aristotle, who became the most famous student of Plato and considered to be one of the first scientist philosophers, described the meaning of wisdom as to signify the “understanding of causes.”

Meaning of Wisdom - Philosophy

This includes the understanding of human behavior, events, objects, situations.  This is practiced through our ability as human beings to apply perception, judgment, and action:

  • Perception – Becoming aware of something through the senses.
  • Judgment – The evaluation of evidence.
  • Action – To arrive at a stable conclusion, making the optimal choice to a given circumstance.

According to these ancient thinkers, wisdom is not something that is acquired, but something that is practiced. This means that true meaning of wisdom is already present at the core of nature and understood through observing and questioning the laws of reality.

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